East Asia Theater
Hong Kong sees first protests since 2020
The first protest since the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong was held March 26 in Tseung Kwan O, an eastern area of the city. A small number of protestors marched against implementation of a new land reclamation plan to facilitate construction of a waste disposal facility. The marchers complied with restrictions imposed by authorities. The protest was limited to a maximum of 100 participants, whose banners and placards were screened before the demonstration. A cordon separated media from the protestors, who were also required to wear numbered tags as they chanted their slogans. (Jurist)
Taiwan extends military conscription period
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 27 announced a plan to strengthen and restructure the nation's military defense strategies, including extending the mandatory conscription period from four months to one year. Beginning in 2024, all males born after Jan. 1, 2005, will need to undergo a year-long period of military service. In light of China's expansionist military activities in the South China Sea and the firing of ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan this year, Tsai stressed the need for Taiwan to be well-prepared for war as a means to avoid confrontation. "The decision is a difficult one, but as the head of the military and for the continued survival of Taiwan, this is an inevitable responsibility," Tsai said.
Podcast: the linguistic struggle in China
In Episode 154 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg conducts an in-depth interview with Gina Anne Tam, author of Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960 (Cambridge University Press) on how Mandarin (Putonghua) became the official language of China, and what has been the role in China's national identity of the regional "dialects," or fangyan. In a dilemma that has vexed China's bureaucracy for 2,000 years, the persistence of fangyan raises questions about conventional notions of nationalism and state formation. What can the tenacious survival of Shanghaihua (Wu), Fujianese (Min), Cantonese (Yue), Toisan and Hakka tell us about the emergence of an "alternative Chinese-ness" in the 21st century?
China: nationwide protests challenge dictatorship
Following weeks of sporadic protests against the recurrent draconian COVID-19 lockdowns in China, spontaneous demonstrations broke out in cities across the country Nov. 27. Street demos were reported from Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu and Wuhan as well as Beijing. In addition to slogans against the lockdowns and for freedom of speech and assembly, such verboten chants were heard as "Xi Jinping, step down" and "Communist Party, step down." Some called Xi a "dictator" and "traitor." Images have been circulating on social media despite the best efforts of authorities to contain them. Many images show demonstrators holding blank sheets of paper as an ironic protest against censorship.
Hong Kong: first conviction under Anthem Ordinance
A Hong Kong court on Nov. 10 sentenced citizen journalist Paula Leung to three months in prison—the first conviction under the territory's National Anthem Ordinance. The law was enacted in Hong Kong on June 12, 2020, pursuant to an act passed by the People's Republic of China in September 2017, which mandated that the semi-autonomous city bring its legal code into conformity. According to regional news outlets, Leung attended a mall screening of Olympic fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long receiving his gold medal on July 30, 2021. During the playing of the Chinese national anthem, attendees waved the colonial-era Hong Kong flag. This was found to be in violation of Article 7 of the law, which makes it a criminal offense to "insult the national anthem," punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
Xi Jinping consolidates self-coup —amid repression
After years of centralizing power in his own person, China's president and party secretary Xi Jinping secured a third leadership term Oct. 23 at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee is stacked with loyalists, abandoning the practice of balancing rival tendencies within the body. This cements Xi's place as China's "paramount leader" in the autocratic tradition of Mao Zedong. Premier Li Keqiang is to step down, replaced by Shanghai party chief Li Qiang, who followed Xi onto the stage at the Great Hall of the People as the new Standing Committee was introduced. A new party doctrine has been promulgated under the banner of "Two Establishes"—establishing Xi's place as the core of the CCP, and establishing Xi Jinping Thought as guiding the CCP. For the first time in a generation, there are to be no women sitting on the 25-member Politburo. Xi's third term as party leader is unprecedented since Deng Xiaoping. (Reuters, NYT, CHRD, Bloomberg, Bloomberg, BBC News)
DPRK law authorizes preemptive nuclear strikes
North Korea passed a law Sept. 9 enshrining its right to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes. According to the official Korea Central New Agency (KCNA), the law states that "if the command and control system of the national nuclear force is in danger of being attacked by hostile forces, the nuclear strike will be carried out automatically and immediately." The KCNA added that "by promulgating a law on a policy of the nuclear forces, our country's status as a nuclear-weapons state has become irreversible." The new law replaces a 2013 law that allowed for the use of nuclear weapons only in retaliation or to repel invasion.
Demand release of Hong Kong 47
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Aug. 22 published a call for Hong Kong to end its unfair trial practices against a group of 47 lawmakers and activists charged under the National Security Law imposed in 2020. Calling for the dropping of charges against the 47 and for their immediately release, HRW said the crimes established by the law are "overly broad and arbitrarily applied."
After the media ban on coverage of the cases was lifted, the prosecution named five of them as "major organizers"—Benny Tai, a legal scholar; Au Nok-hin, ex-lawmaker; Chiu Ka-yin and Chung Kam-lun, ex-district council members; and Gordon Ng Ching-hang, an activist. In these cases, the prosecution is calling for harsh sentences including life imprisonment, saying that they sought to "paralyze the operations of the Hong Kong government."
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